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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Modifying spousal support when life circumstances change

When a couple in California divorces, one spouse may be ordered to pay spousal support to the other spouse. However, life is not static and sometimes changes take place that affect a paying spouse's ability to pay his or her obligation. On the flip side, life changes may change a receiving spouse's need for support. Therefore, sometimes a spouse might seek to have the amount of support modified.

To seek a modification of a spousal support award, there must be a significant change in circumstances in the life of one or both parties since the original award was established. For example, the paying spouse might experience a significant decrease in income, thereby affecting his or her ability to pay support at the current amount due. Or, the spouse receiving support might not be making a good faith attempt to become financially independent, or he or she may remarry. This latter situation may justify a decrease in alimony.

If a party is seeking a post-divorce modification of spousal support through the courts, it is important to remember that until the new order is signed, the paying spouse must pay what is due under the current order. Changes in spousal support are not retroactive. So, if a spouse wants to change the amount of spousal support owed, they should file a motion with the court as soon as they can.

That being said, changing a spousal support order, like any family law matter, can have significant consequences on a person's life. Therefore, those wishing to modify a spousal support order may want to seek legal guidance first to ensure no crucial step is overlooked. Understanding how the law applies to the facts of one's situation can help a person make choices that are in their best interests.

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